UW Madison Police chief bans use of 'thin blue line' imagery

UW Madison Police chief bans use of 'thin blue line' imagery
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University of Wisconsin-Madison Police Chief Kristen Roman has banned the use of "thin blue line" imagery while officers are at work. 

Roman sent an email to the police staff that was released Tuesday saying the flag has been “co-opted” by people with “hateful ideologies” and that the imagery hurts their relationship with the community, the Wisconsin State Journal reported on Friday

“I understand that this decision may cause emotional responses, even anger from some,” Roman said. “I, too, feel hurt and disappointed as we confront our current reality. I know this is hard. I know this issue is complicated.”

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Banned displays of thin blue line imagery include flags, pins, bracelets, notebooks, coffee mugs and other accessories. The only exceptions are visible tattoos and certain events for officers such as funerals. 

Meant to express support for police, thin blue line imagery became very popular last year among opponents to the Black Lives Matter movement.

The adaptation on the American flag has been flown by white supremacists and was seen among the rioters who breached the Capitol on Jan. 6. A Capitol Police officer was killed in that assault, and two others have since committed suicide.

Roman's email said that she tried to explain to people what the thin blue line imagery meant to officers and that it did not represent the hateful ideologies that have used it but it “continue[d] to fall short in ways I can’t simply ignore.”

“At the end of the day, we have dedicated ourselves to a profession that demands service above self,” she said. “As such, relevant community concerns, perceptions, and fears necessarily outweigh our shared professional investment in a symbol that presently separates and alienates us from those we have promised to serve.”

In November, Roman backed her department amid backlash on social media and from UW-Madison students after the department posted a picture with a thin blue line flag in the background.

At the time, she defended the post but said the department would have a discussion about the issue.